I continue to be at least somewhat optimistic that non ad-supported models are worth trying. It seems like Patreon is doing really well and is perhaps something we can all learn from.
For me, the lack of apps/integrations made it essentially impossible for me to get the people I wanted to talk to on there on to there.
But I'm really glad you tried, I'm even more glad you've documented what did and didn't work, and I definitely got value for money.
Good luck with whatever's next.
I remember trying to explain why it wasn't a stupid idea to people way back when it launched on HN, and had kind of assumed that it'd died years ago.
Hypothesis: If you can find a way to provide value while you build up the network, the product would do better.
Second hypothesis: If you can find a way to acquire valuable users with a low-effort funnel and 'leech' users with a paid funnel that would also make the product perform better.
Taking these as assumptions for a moment, this would imply a natural advantage for federated networks if they provide interoperability between different services that have value on their own without network effects.
We sort of took the tortoise approach to development, and this seems to have helped solve the chicken and egg problem with the userbase.
I will email you about it.